Can Unilever Stop Massive Plastic Pollution of Our Oceans?


Originally Appeared in Presence Marketing News, August 2019
By Steven Hoffman

An estimated 1 million ocean animals are killed each year as a result of plastic pollution. Now, one of the world’s biggest plastic polluters – Unilever – has made it a top priority to reduce plastic pollution. According to CNBC, on any given day, 2.5 billion people use Unilever products that comprise 400 household brands, yet the company knows its $158-billion market cap has come as the expense of the environment. According to Unilever, the company invests more than $1 billion annually on research and development, of which new plastics innovation is a component. In 2018, Unilever’s brands most committed to sustainability, including such “sustainable living” brands as Ben and Jerry’s, Seventh Generation and Pukka Herbs, grew 46% faster than the rest of its business and delivered 70% of its turnover growth.

“All of Unilever's brands are on a journey towards reducing their environmental footprint and increasing their positive social impact. Sustainable living brands are those that are furthest ahead on the journey to achieving the company’s ambitious sustainability goals,” Unilever said in a statement. As a result of its initiatives, the consumer giant says it has cut down on plastic use by 15% and is beginning to use bioplastics and refillable metal bottles for bodycare and other items. Since the company signed on in 1017 to an Ellen MacArthur Foundation initiative called The New Plastics Economy, Unilever committ3ed to making all of its plastic packaging either reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. Addressing the issue of packaging is a great way to start changing the way plastic is used, Shelie Miller, a University of Michigan professor who studies packaging and sustainability, told CNBC. “Packaging is produced to become waste,” she says. “That makes it unique among manufactured goods.” Natural products manufacturers can find a wealth of sustainable packaging resources at OSC2’s Climate Collaborative: https://www.climatecollaborative.com/packaging_resources, and at New Hope Network: https://www.newhope.com/manufacturing-and-supply-business-resources/what-can-my-brand-do-help-solve-our-plastics-problem.